Spring In The South Plants Us In The Dirt

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As the weather turns warmer and we turn the corner from spring to summer, backyard gardeners are in high gear. If you haven't done your own backyard planting yet, there's still time for you to be seduced into fulfilling the ancient agrarian ritual. Melanie Peeples sends an audio postcard from Birmingham, Alabama.


If you're toying with the idea of growing some vegetables this summer, it's not too late to fulfill those latent agrarian longings and be seduced at last into becoming a gardener. Melanie Peeples has been thinking about how it happens.

MELANIE PEEPLES: Maybe you just can't help yourself. The weather has finally turned and warm evenings draw you outside just to sit and breathe while the sun goes down.

(Soundbite of lawnmower and ice clanking in glass)

PEEPLES: The smell of fresh-cut grass hits you and you know it to be true: summer is on its way.

(Soundbite of birds chirping)

PEEPLES: Off in the distance, a neighbor has fired up his grill and the scent of something good to eat wafts over. Unable to resist, you slip the cover off your own grill. And as you wait for things to heat up, you start thinking about summer cookouts and what to put on that burger.

Tomatoes, you think, visualizing a perfectly rich, red, ripe one - not like the anemic, pink ones you've been suffering through all winter. You remember driving past the tiny gardens starting to pop up all over town in side and front yards. Furrows being formed. The musky smell of freshly turned earth. And something in you stirs.

Maybe you've watched the tomato-sharing scene from movie "Steel Magnolias" one too many times.

You think about your grandmother's funny-looking straw hat and find yourself studying your backyard, thinking: what a waste of all that good earth. And the idea of letting another summer - a growing season, by god - go by without making your own effort seems wasteful. Irresponsible, even.

Never mind that you don't really like getting your hands dirty or fighting the bugs, but there's this nagging feeling that you're shirking your duty to grow something. You think about heading down to the nursery, or hardware or homebuilding store - the plants are everywhere - you cannot escape them. It seems like everyone is heeding the call.

You'll just pick out one or two hardy-looking ones and plant them deep in the earth like your grandmother used to or her mother before her, each bit of dirt under your nails in homage to those who came before.

Yes, you will do it. You will grow the tomatoes. And maybe some bell peppers, too. Have you seen the price of a red bell pepper lately? And right over there, carrots. This is how it begins.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: Melanie Peeples tills the soil in her backyard in Birmingham, Alabama.

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